McCarter Theater’s Emily Mann
I would never presume to give Barack Obama advice. He is smarter and better informed than I. However, I would like to hear him respond to my two biggest concerns:
1.) In the spirit of bi-partisanship, I am concerned he may compromise his strong vision, especially in economic policy.
2.) Our entering into an escalated war in Afghanistan makes many experts of that area very concerned. There is no country in the world that has been militarily successful there. I fear another quagmire.
Emily Mann is the artistic director of McCarter Theater.
Princeton University Poet Paul Muldoon
I recommend that President Obama, whom I welcome as the latest in a long line of Irish presidents, should appoint a U.S. Secretary of Arts and Culture. We’re out of step with the rest of the world on this matter.
If we can get back in step with the rest of the world on torture (and I don’t mean as world leaders in it), I trust we can do the same for the arts.
Please think of signing at www.petitiononline.com/esnyc/petition.html.
Public Librarian Leslie Burger
Your message of hope has inspired millions of people here in the U.S. and around the world. Just call on us whenever you need support.
I want more than anything for you to be successful in providing universal health care coverage, not tied to employment.
Significant investments in education, libraries, and the arts will produce an educated, skilled, and competitive workforce that is ready to lead us into the future. Libraries change people’s lives. The economic downturn is bringing people in record numbers to libraries, where they use our computers to fill out job applications, find information about employment, meet with business counselors, learn computers skills, or come to escape from the harsh reality of life. Unfortunately libraries are among the first budgets to be cut. Investing in libraries is investing in the future. In fact I know that you credit a librarian at the New York Public Library with providing you with the information that led you to becoming a community organizer in Chicago. So please invest in libraries and consider them a essential building block for creating a better future for our country.
Leslie Burger is the executive director of Princeton Public Library and past president of the American Library Association.
John Harmon, African American Chamber
The moment Senator Barack Obama went from presidential candidate to President-elect, the world declared, “Mission Accomplished!” The ascension of the only black member of The United States Senate to Commander and Chief was truly beyond the belief of many.
Discipline, wisdom, and perseverance produced unprecedented fundraising and voter participation levels that enabled Mr. Obama to defeat a field of determined competitors over a two year period. The level of discipline demonstrated by Team Obama truly impressed the brightest political minds. Now that the preliminaries are over let’s look closer at what I see lies ahead.
The level of expectations, particularly for blacks, has been raised. Life-long excuses will no longer be accepted. Black parents can be assured that they can tell their children to be all they can be. The voter turnout, especially in previously invisible groups, served as the tipping point for the Obama candidacy. If these voters, particularly in urban communities, remain engaged, then there is a real chance the status quo can change. The success of President- elect Obama has ignited a “yes we can” mindset across the United States. The cumulative effect of individual voter participation has become once again a “real weapon” when properly organized and directed.
On the local front, where there is a black majority of representation, we have not always seen the desired outcomes. As we look toward the future our elected officials at all levels of leadership must be more responsive and inclusive of those being served.
I believe that the outcome of the November, 2008, presidential election should be viewed as the first chapter of the new America, an America that is respectful, inclusive, and willing to work collectively to realize individual talent and potential for the betterment of us all.
This new chapter should not be limited to politics. All sectors of our great country — banking, medical, non-profits, insurance, development, and construction — must also be willing to work for the betterment of us all. Despite racial progress, the level of representation at higher corporate levels is not what it should be. My observation should not be misconstrued. I invite each reader to take a personal assessment, starting tomorrow. Sometimes addressing our greatest fears openly and honestly can lead to the most successful outcomes. Mission Accomplished can hold great promise for our future if we all find a way to contribute.
John E. Harmon is president and CEO of the Metropolitan Trenton African American Chamber of Commerce, which has its offices in Trenton.
Judy Hutton, CEO, Princeton YWCA
President Obama, as you stand poised to sign an economic stimulus bill, we strongly urge you to address the needs of low-income women and families. Remember that women represent nearly half of the work force-they are not a marginal special interest group. We urge you to include in your stimulus package:
— Increased funding for Food Stamps and an extension of unemployment insurance, both of which have proven effective at helping single parent families in need and boosting the economy;
— Aid to states to prevent cuts in Medicaid so that such recipients, including YWCA clients, do not experience cut backs in their health care as states try to balance their budgets;
— Funding for investments in infrastructure projects that could help put people back to work, but not just building roads and bridges — areas that traditionally are male-dominated but also in education, social work, childcare, and libraries.
Many deep, urgent, legitimate concerns fight for your attention right now. As we carry on the fight at the grassroots level for racial justice and women’s empowerment, we appeal to you not to lose sight of other meaningful and important issues: affordable housing, quality and fairly priced daycare, protective measures that address violence against women, fair and equitable wages, affirmative action, and marriage equity.
Mr. President, it is our profound hope that you will turn your attention to the economic well-being of women and families. We promise you that we, in Princeton, will support you every step of the way.
Judy Hutton is CEO of the YWCA Princeton.
Jeff Nathanson, Princeton Arts Council
During the presidential campaign Barack Obama was the only candidate to distribute a detailed program of initiatives for the arts. As reported recently in the Art Newspaper, included were plans for an “Artists Corps” of young artists to promote art in schools and low-income communities, increased funding for the NEA, health care for artists, and allowing artists to deduct the market value of any works they donate to museums of public institutions.
I would urge President Obama to follow through on these campaign promises, but don’t stop there. With the economy in dire straits, President Obama could institute a contemporary version of the WPA Federal Art Project, expanding on FDR’s concept to include artists in the development of the infrastructure so that art isn’t just an “add-on.” Artists, architects, and designers could work together with engineers to make road, bridge and utilities projects beautiful and sustainable.
The one percent for public art model is fine, but all too often the art is an afterthought and not an integral part of the overall development process.
In addition, arts need to be considered a central aspect of education. Numerous studies show that the arts significantly impact academic achievement, literacy, and citizenship. It would be excellent if artists and arts educators worked together with administrators, teachers and students to improve our schools.
Jeff Nathanson is the executive director of the Arts Council of Princeton, Paul Robeson Center for the Arts, 102 Witherspoon Street. 609-924-8777 or www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.
David Saint, Theater Director
I have been in Washington, D.C., working on the Broadway revival of “West Side Story” with Arthur Laurents for the past several weeks, where the entire endeavor has been about revitalizing the show with an eye toward change. Even though Arthur Laurents (who wrote the book to the landmark musical and now directs the revival) and Stephen Sondheim (who wrote the lyrics) are so open to change, it is fascinating how many others profess a desire to embrace the idea of change, but in the doing, prove resistant.
My hope for Barack Obama’s presidency is that his much needed message of change is not resisted in the same way by Congress and the country.
David Saint is the artistic director of George Street Playhouse in New Brunwick, www.georgestplayhouse.org.
Marketing Consultant Katherine Kish
As you lead, continue calling all Americans, all of us to be “the better angels of our nature.”
Katherine Kish is president of Market Entry Inc. and co-executive director of Einstein’s Alley.